In the fight against white supremacist terrorism, we have to look not just at the trees directly in front of us, but at the entire forest as a whole.
The events earlier this month have resulted in the loss of numerous lives. The loss of friends, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. In the case of the shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, it was 3 deaths in addition to sixteen injured. The youngest victim was six years old. The shooter, Santino William Legan, was killed via self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Despite reports that Legan had posted messages on social media naming “hordes of mestizos and Silicon Valley white tw*ts” as two groups of people that would “overcrowd towns” in his home state of California and the fact that he made an Instagram post referencing a book widely circulated among white supremacist groups, FBI special agent in charge, John Bennet, told reporters when he was asked about the literature that “To call it ideology in one way or the other is conflicting readings.”
“Just because someone has a book in their house doesn’t mean they are leaning one way or another,” he went on to say.
The book in question is “Might Is Right,” written in 1896 by an author using the pseudonym “Ragnar Redbeard,” a name many believe was the chosen alias used by British author and poet Arthur Desmond. Essentially a collection of poems and quasi-philosophical rants, the book amounts to a roughly 100-page text that vilifies “weakness,” dehumanizes those considered non-white and embraces social Darwinism.
As if that wasn’t enough of a red flag, the 1999 edition of “Might Is Right” was published by the now-defunct 14 Words Press, whose name is derived from the fourteen-word slogan coined by the publisher’s founder, neo-Nazi David Lane (“We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children”). The phrase has since become a popular rallying cry for white supremacists around the globe.
Days later in El Paso, Texas, another shooting occurred, this time claiming the lives of 22 innocent people going about their day and doing some back-to-school shopping at a Walmart. Within the very first paragraph of a manifesto that he uploaded to the site known as 8chan (which I’ve obtained a copy of for the purpose of accurate reporting, but will decline to share in detail with the public out of respect for those lost), the suspect, identified as 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, wrote that “This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas. They are the instigators, not me. I am simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion.”
“Invasion.” “Hordes.” “Replacement.” This type of rhetoric, these types of dehumanizing, anti-immigrant buzzwords are no longer just contained to the writings of white nationalist pamphlets or the darkest fringes of the internet (such as various neo-Nazi sites and the message board 4chan, along with the even darker 8chan, the latter of which has finally been taken offline).
These dog-whistles are now commonplace among cable news shows and President Trump’s tweets.
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Shortly after the El Paso massacre, numerous tweets from the president that utilized the terms “invasion” and “caravans” when speaking about migrants from Central America and Mexico were dug up and put on display, showing how his inflammatory tweets echo the sentiments of white supremacists around the nation who fear that “their” nation will be “overrun” by non-whites and that Democrats/liberals/”elites”/Jewish people are all engaged in a secret, covert plot to turn America into a majority non-white nation as a means to secure political/electoral power.
In other words, the “white genocide” conspiracy theory has gone mainstream.
No slouch in the propagation of right-wing fan fiction by any means, the fear merchants at Fox News have ramped up their “migrant invasion” pieces into overdrive since Trump took office, with two of the network’s most popular bullhorns being Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham.
After years of not-so-subtle screeds about protecting America’s “culture” and “heritage” while claiming that immigrants make America “dirtier” and “more divided” when he wasn’t busy attracting an audience of neo-Nazis, Carlson referred to the number of Democratic primary candidates calling out Trump and the right for their combined roles in the spreading of hate-laced propaganda as “power-hungry morons” who are leveraging “…human pain for political advantage” during his show the following Monday after the weekend of terror. Even more brazen, he described the El Paso shooter—the same person who was “retaliating” against the “Hispanic invasion”—simply as “something of a right-winger.”
And then, tragedy struck Dayton, Ohio. Our home. Our doorstep. Claiming the lives of ten innocent people who were enjoying a night out on the town and looking to have a good time, turning their worlds upside-down in a matter of 30 seconds.
Once information about this particular shooter came out, I began to notice a disturbing trend among right-wing pundits on Twitter. Gone were the “thoughts and prayers” and other all-too-familiar cliches. No, what followed were frantic tweets and re-tweets by popular figures on the right that this shooter appeared to be politically left-leaning, a supporter of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, in fact.
After this news broke, various conservative pundits quickly began steering the online discourse away from debates about Trump-influenced white supremacist terrorism and calls for gun control and went back to their default functions of defending the president at all costs, performing tweet-thread acrobatics to assert that despite numerous examples, Trump is not a racist and has not caused stochastic terrorism by white supremacists in any way, shape or form.
Not willing to engage in meaningful conversations about gun control or the growing, emboldened white supremacist faction of America who eat up Trump’s dog-whistling rants like red meat, some on the right are using the tragedy in our city for their own asinine hot takes, attempting to re-frame the issue as a by-product of recreational marijuana, video games, gay marriage, “professional athletes who protest the American flag” and “snowflakes, who can’t accept a duly-elected President.”
The Monday after the shooting, I left Sinclair later in the afternoon, taking my usual route. I noticed an older woman that I typically see at least twice a week. She was sitting outside near the cafeteria and digging through her purse as she quietly sobbed, her grief-stricken wails barely audible. As I walked by her and made my way home, my earbuds in and eyes looking out toward the bright, sunny sky, I hoped to myself that a loved one of hers wasn’t one of the fallen.